About The Baby Blues

"After I had my son, I felt like I was on cloud nine. Then all of the sudden, out of nowhere, I felt terrible. I couldn't stop crying. It felt so strange to be this sad because all I ever wanted was to be a mother."
Baby blues

Key Takeaways

  • The baby blues are mild emotional symptoms that affect nearly 80% of new mothers during the first few weeks after giving birth. 

  • For most women, the baby blues improve within a few weeks, but a portion of new mothers may develop a perinatal mood and anxiety disorder. 

  • If symptoms are more than mild, do not improve within one month, or impact a mother's quality of life, then she should seek professional support.

Coping with New Mom Emotions

The baby blues refer to feelings of sadness and anxiety that occur in the days and weeks after giving birth. They typically peak around about three to five days after giving birth and then gradually resolve. The baby blues are a common experience for women. Between 50 and 80% of new mothers experience them.

 

Baby Blues Symptoms

Symptoms of the baby blues include:

  • Feeling sad
  • Crying for what may feel like no reason
  • Feeling anxious or on edge
  • Lack of energy
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Lack of appetite
  • Low motivation
  • Loss of interest in activities or hobbies that were previously enjoyed

It’s common for women with the baby blues to cry or get angry without being able to identify a cause. It can be very confusing for women to feel like they can’t control their own emotions.For many women, the baby blues go away on their own within a few weeks. However, there are some instances where the baby blues may develop into another condition. 

 

Causes of the Baby Blues

The baby blues are believed to be caused by a combination of hormonal and environmental changes that occur after giving birth. During the postpartum period, there is a drop in estrogen and progesterone levels and an increase in prolactin. At the same time, having a newborn involves a significant shift in your routine, sleep, and lifestyle. It’s also common for new mothers to be overwhelmed with emotions about their delivery, caring for a new baby, and their future. Professionals believe that the baby blues are caused by a combination of all of these changes that occur during the postpartum period. 

Can the baby blues lead to postpartum depression?

For some women, the baby blues may lead to a perinatal mood and anxiety disorder (PMAD) , like postpartum depression (PPD) or postpartum anxiety (PPA). Experts believe that up to 20% of new mothers develop postpartum depression and anxiety within the first year of giving birth. Women who experience the baby blues are four to 11 times more likely to also develop PPD. Postpartum depression involves a depressed mood that lasts for more than 2 weeks and begins at any point within the first year of giving birth. Other symptoms of PPD include:

  • A loss of interest in activities and hobbies that were once enjoyable
  • An increase or decrease in weight or appetite (not related to recent pregnancy)
  • Changes in sleeping patterns (either sleeping more or less than usual)
  • Low energy
  • Feelings of guilt or worthlessness
  • Difficulty thinking, concentrating, or making decisions
  • Changes in movement, such as feeling more sluggish or tense
  • Thoughts of death or suicide

Why do some people develop postpartum depression?

Anyone who has a new baby, even fathers and adopted parents, can develop postpartum depression. However, certain risk factors may increase the chances of a person developing PPD. These risk factors include:

  • Having a previous history of anxiety or depression
  • Experiencing a risky pregnancy and/or delivery
  • Having a delivery that differed from what was expected
  • Experiencing postpartum complications 
  • Younger age of the mother giving birth
  • Lack of social support from family, friends, or one’s partner
  • Certain vitamin deficiencies, including zinc, selenium, and B vitamins
  • Sleeping problems

Postpartum depression can be very distressing for parents. We often imagine that having a new baby will bring great joy, not sadness and irritability. Fortunately, postpartum depression is treatable and in some cases even preventable. 

 

Coping with the Baby Blues

Many women who experience the baby blues begin to feel better within a few weeks of giving birth. During that time, there are actions you can take to help yourself cope more effectively.

Sleep

Finding time to sleep with a newborn is not an easy task, but getting as much rest as possible during this time can help you cope with emotional changes. If possible, have your partner or another trusted person take over one nighttime feeding so that you can get a longer stretch of sleep. You can also try to rest when the baby does and permit yourself to put household chores on the back burner for now. 

Eat well

Maintaining a nutritious diet can also help you feel better during this time. The postpartum period is not the time to crash diet, as your body is still recovering from childbirth. If you’re breastfeeding, your body may need around 2,000 to 2,800 calories per day. Aim for a diet filled with fruits, vegetables, protein, and whole grains, and limit your consumption of processed foods, caffeine, and alcohol. 

Delegate chores

While there are many demands during the postpartum period, maintaining a perfect household should not be one of them. Let go of guilt if the laundry and dishes pile up or if you can’t complete all of your chores. If you have the option, ask for assistance around the house or accept help when it’s offered. Reducing these demands is something that you can control right now.

Communicate with your support system

Many women hide their true feelings after giving birth because they worry about how other people will perceive them. Keeping your feelings to yourself can cause you to feel isolated, alone, and ashamed. When a loved one asks how you’re doing, try sharing your true feelings. By openly communicating, you may learn that you’re not the only one that has felt this way. Your loved ones may also be more willing to help if they know how you are feeling.

Do an activity that helps you feel “normal”

Having a new baby turns your life upside down overnight. You may wonder if you will ever feel like yourself again. The answer is yes, you will ease into this new role, but the beginning is hard. To make things a little easier, try to do an activity that you enjoy or relaxes you, whether it be taking a walk, relaxing in a hot bath, or meditating for a few minutes. This may be something that has helped you in the past or a new activity that you can try. If you have the option, ask a trusted adult to help with childcare so you can find time to take care of yourself. 

Remember that your feelings are normal

Mothers who experience the baby blues often feel ashamed or embarrassed about how they’re feeling. It helps to remember that these feelings are normal and usually lessen over time. So take a deep breath and remind yourself that you will not feel this way forever.The baby blues is a tough time. Taking steps to care for yourself during this time can ease some of the burden and help you recover. While many women recover rather quickly, a portion of women may have a harder time and go on to develop a PMAD. Fortunately, there are different options available for you if you continue to suffer beyond the baby blues.

 

Getting Help for the Baby Blues

The baby blues usually start to improve within one to two weeks. During this time, try to make extra efforts to care for yourself and lean on your support system. If at any point you are experiencing severe symptoms or if your symptoms do not improve after two weeks, then you may be experiencing a PMAD. Signs that what you are experiencing may be more than the baby blues include:

  • Your symptoms are severe enough that they make it hard for you to function and care for yourself and/or your baby
  • You are thinking about suicide 
  • Your symptoms do not improve or get worse after two weeks

With the baby blues, you may feel distressed and uncomfortable, but in general, you can still function. The baby blues do not interfere with your ability to care for your baby or yourself. If you are having difficulty caring for yourself or your baby, then it’s possible that you may have a PMAD.

 

Treatment

Therapy

Therapy is an effective treatment for PMADs. It involves sitting and speaking with a therapist, who will listen, provide support, and offer alternative ways of thinking about a problem. A therapist will also offer tools to help you cope with your emotions. There are many different “types” or approaches to therapy available. Some of these have been studied on women dealing with PMADs, while others have been studied on people experiencing depression and anxiety unrelated to having a baby. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and interpersonal therapy are two types of therapy that are shown to be effective in treating postpartum depression. CBT focuses on helping you identify and change the negative thoughts that are contributing to your depression. Interpersonal therapy focuses on helping you improve your current relationships. 

Medication

Some women who develop PMADs may benefit from medication, especially if the symptoms are severe or don’t go away after trying other options, like therapy. If you’re interested in medication, you can speak with your primary care physician, OBGYN, or psychiatrist about your options. They will help you weigh the risks and benefits and decide if medication is right for you. 

Support groups

Postpartum support groups are a way for new parents to connect with and support one another. They involve a group facilitator who is a trained mental health professional and several group members who all share a particular struggle. These groups are held both in-person and online. Support groups are beneficial for several reasons. They can help you feel less alone and less ashamed of your feelings. Support groups can introduce you to new ways of coping with your feelings by introducing you to new skills and getting advice from other group members. They can also help you feel more supported by developing connections with other parents.If you’re interested in finding a local in-person postpartum support group, you can conduct an online search for support groups in your area or search Postpartum Support International’s (PSI) online directory, which includes a listing of local support groups. You can also consider asking your OBGYN, pediatrician, psychiatrist, psychologist, or therapist if they can provide you with a referral. For access to online postpartum support groups, see PSI’s online meetings. They offer support for new parents, NICU parents, military members, and parents who have suffered a loss.

Help is only a click away

The baby blues usually go away on their own within a few weeks. If your symptoms persist, you may be experiencing a perinatal mood and anxiety disorder. Seeking professional treatment can help you manage your symptoms and reduce their impact on your life.

At Phoenix Health, we support parents at all points of their journey. If you’re experiencing the baby blues or a PMAD, we are here to help. Schedule an appointment with a maternal mental health specialist and start feeling better today.
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